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Total number of comments: 116 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:46)


Showing comments 116 - 101

  • Egypt's Waco
    • Any post that starts off with "It’s quite simple" is unhelpful. There is no democratic champion in the three-legged stool that is Egyptian politics.

    • I disagree with you, John McCutchen, that there is a clear choice. I can respect an opinion on either side of this issue.

      Max Fisher of Wash Post has done an excellent job of laying out the tradeoffs:
      link to

  • Egypt's Transition Has Failed: New Age of Military Dictatorship in Wake of Massacre
    • Larry, I think you are being too critical. There is some truth in what Sherman is saying. Certainly the reformers get a D- for their political organizing. No leadership with demonstrated backing has emerged to demand participation. Who's to blame for their pathetic showing in parliamentary elections?

      The blame can be spread around broadly.

    • Good heavens, what a strange and illogical rant.

      "Western liberals" took no discernible position on Egypt, certainly not what you are suggesting.

      And then you claim "the west could have easily set up new elections with Egyptian Military oversight while a neutered Morsi was still in power." You must be joking.

      I take it you think the U.S. should have cut-off military to Egypt. I disagree, but that's a debatable point. It's hard to see how it would have made any difference. I don't know how you decided that liberals were against cutting off aid.

    • The heavy handed behavior of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. is in no way comparable to that seen by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian Military.

      The 20 million people in the streets protesting Morsi would be equivalent to 90 million in the United States. If 90 million Americans were in the street, our government would fall too.

      We have checks and balances in our mature system that people come to trust. Obviously neither the Morsi supporters nor detractors are willing to wait until the next election.

    • spiral007, the motives of the MB are self-evident: they are acting and speaking to depose the current government and restore Morsi to power. No speculation or insight required.

      "Please provide some objective reference to how Morsi governed in an undemocratic manner ... the only reason he took supreme power for a short period of time was to avert the Mubarak appointed supreme court ... sure he packed the upper house with pro Morsi supporters, but that was not illegal and democracy does have winners and losers."

      There is no example of MB heavy-handed behavior that cannot be explained-away. Worst of all, the MB rushed-through a constitution that did not have broad support. I've heard the rationalizations.

      The violent impasse we are at is the inevitable result of BOTH sides taking absolutist positions. The MB does not have broad support, they are in no position to demand that the government step-down. You say the liberals should have waited for elections. Well, the same can be said about the MB today - elections are scheduled for 6 months from now.

    • Prof. Cole's analysis was balanced and clearly documented.

      spiral00, you say you are not a supporter of religion in politics, I believe you, but you hold the Muslim Brotherhood blameless, an unsupportable, emotional position.

      The Muslim Brotherhood has pursued a doomed strategy since the coup. Like you, they refuse to recognize that they governed in an undemocratic, exclusive manner; they refuse to accept the reality that they were left isolated. The MB governance was fundamentally misdirected, it wasn't just a matter of "some mistakes were made." To see this, you just have to acknowledge the breath and and size of protests demanding that Morsi leave office.

      The MB are now out in the streets trying to effect another revolution by paralyzing governance & the economy. One can understand their feelings, but circumstances are far different from the revolution that brought down Mubarak. The MB do not have the sympathies of Egyptians outside their hardcore supporters. They are on a death mission, and now the deaths have come.

      I don't excuse the military one bit, but the MB had political options smarter than provoking a civil war.

  • Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Defiant as Government Mulls Dispersing Crowds in Cairo, Giza
    • Generals certainly can run Egypt. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood has been established at the bête noire, the general public might even let them get away with it.

      I'm so depressed. The military is awful. The Muslim Brotherhood is unable to see their failings. The liberals are unwilling to do the hard work of organizing.

      I think the military government believes they have to crush the protests from the MB in order to have any chance of resuscitating the economy. Maybe that is a correct analysis; but even if not it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

      It's gonna be ugly for a couple years, even if there are some sort-of elections. The military will not let go of power any time soon.

    • I think the Egyptian military's dependence on U.S. arms is often over-stated. Certainly they might have short-term problems with spare parts, but militarily, even an army at 50% strength has overwhelming force.

      Iran was a U.S. client, and they managed to transitioning to arms from China and then Russia. And they repelled Sadaam Hussein along the way.
      link to

  • Egyptian Backlash against Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi's Call for foreign Intervention in Egypt
    • Extremists have not taken over Libya. I'm optimistic they will yet find a way to improve security for the citizens.

  • Egyptian authorities release CCTV Footage of Muslim Brotherhood Attack on 6 October Bridge
    • Tahar, I will agree with you that the MB are victims of repression. You still need to face reality and find the best possible response to the situation.

    • The Native Americans were purely victims, decimated, defeated, and out of options. If you feel that the MB has fallen to a comparably pathetic state, then you are right that there is nothing left to discuss.

      For others who see the situation more complexly, lets talk. Hundreds of MB people were killed this weekend. The potential for hundreds of thousands to die is very much in the balance. Choices are going to matter.

      I've been asking MB supporters (via my TV set) the same question for several weeks: what is your plan? It is not an unreasonable question, but I hear few hints, but the implicit answer seems to be, "protest until Mursi is rightfully restored to office."

      The Assad protesters pursued such an absolutist goal two years ago. It did not go well, but at least they had a more plausible plan. They had a great deal of international support, relatively broad popular support, and no better alternatives to effect change.

      Certainly the MB has been badly treated. But non-MB eyes their moral case is murky. The bullied other voices while in power. The likelihood that they will be able to participate meaningfully in politics is there - especially compared to the desperate prospects of the anti-Assad protesters.

      The MB has options. If you desire a civil war, please explain how you think that is going to play out. If you want to protest peacefully and boycott elections, where is that likely to lead? Or, what are the prospects for participate in coming elections and begin to regain meaningful power and influence?

    • The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to overthrow the government of Egypt and restore Morsi to power. Such a goal is likely to lead to more violence, and the death of many of their supporters.

      The MB has little support internationally, and evidently only modest support within Egypt. I expect the military government will succeed in suppressing any insurrection.

      I'd love to hear some strategic thinking from MB supporters, something beyond indignation. What are their goals, and what actions will achieve those goals?

  • Egypt: Military announces 'War on Terror,' Calls for Massive Demos Against Muslim Brotherhood
    • "Al-Sissi doesn’t seek reconciliation or even a peaceful exit to this crisis."
      What do you want Al-Sissi to do? What specifically would a peaceful exit to the crisis look like?

      I agree with much of what you say, Al-Sissi's speech seemed to raise temperatures unnecessarily.

      I disagree with you that Egypt is in crisis; my prescription for Al-Sissi is to largely ignore the protests and proceed with the announced plans for a new constitution and election. Respond with minimal force.

      I'll be very interested in hearing what steps you prefer him to take.

  • New Egyptian gov't on being sworn in, Complains of Turkish Interference in Egyptian Affairs
    • Good point.

      Whenever I hear any nation complaining about "interfering in their internal affairs" it's almost always a sign of a vulnerable government. They are either teetering, or holding onto power through brutality.

      One can't expect Turkey to calmly accept the overthrow of a close political ally through a military coup. I hope Egypt will put on their big boy pants and make an effort to mend fences with Turkey.

    • "Among the first orders of business of the new government was to lodge a complaint with the Turkish government for interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign country."

      I would think this would be about 50th or 60th on their to-do list.

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  • The Rebellion Movement Denounces Mansour's Constitutional Principles as Dictatorial
    • You could be right Mr. Visitor, certainly we continue to see troubling incompetence, at best.

      I'm keeping my rose-colored glasses on and hoping for the best (until they should get knocked-off by a civil war.) As ugly as the killing was several days ago, it is encouraging that all sides seem to be reacting at horror at the event.

      I believe Egypt today is more likely to stumble towards a better place than it was two weeks ago. Truth be told predictions are worthless and impossible.

    • I was confused by this article and had to re-read it. The controversy is not over the shape of the new constitution, but rather the character of the transition government for the next 5 months.

      Sounds like Mansour has already agreed to make concessions, so I don't see why this more than a minor dust-up. I guess nerves are very much on edge, and groups are quick to throw-out words like "dictatorial" and "martyrdom."

  • Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Calls for 'Uprising' as Plan for Elections is Announced
    • Good question. For one, they should be mad as hell, and out in the streets protesting.

      If they were thrown-out by a coup initiated chiefly by the military, with the intention of instituting a military dictatorship, perhaps armed insurrection is the way to go.

      On the other hand, if they were rejected by a large majority of the nations citizens, I would advise that such a party accept their lesson and grudgingly return to politics after a venting period.

    • Except nobody seems to agree which side Obama has taken, the signals are all over the map.

      Whenever there is any awful turmoil around the world, the cheap shots comes flooding out. Often, people from the same political viewpoint make completely conflicting arguments, they share only the same absolute certainty that it's all the U.S. president't fault.

  • Egypt: Over 50 dead in Brotherhood-Army Clash; Baha-al-Din proposed PM; Thousands support Gov't
    • I don't think there is any strategy to move out of this turmoil beyond the obvious: suppress violence and move towards new elections.

      The MB is demanding that Mursi be reinstated, nothing short of this will matter. So negotiations are pointless.

      The members of the MB will have to decide as individuals whether to return to politics, protest peacefully, or turn to violence.

  • Egypt: 8 Wounded in Clashes as Salafi Fundamentalists Object to Elbaradei as PM
    • The Muslim Brotherhood has no choice but to return to the political process. Certainly some will resort to violent insurgency, but that will only be counter-productive.

      I hope that the Muslim Brotherhood has a large bloc in parliament in the next elections.

      As to the MB resuming majority control of the government any time soon, I expect there is some truth to the opposition's joke, "The Muslim brotherhood is like the measles. Get it once and then you're immune."

  • Brotherhood, Army risk Civil War: 30 Dead, Hundreds Wounded
    • The theory presented here is that the western media is afraid of grassroots democracy, and therefore clings to the muslim brotherhood versus military paradigm.

      I expect this sort of silly, conspiracy theorizing from Sarah Palin, not from a supposed intellectual.

    • You pose an interesting question, lets make a fair analogy.

      The Pat Robertson Ministry somehow wins a popular presidential election due to a divided field. Pat behaves autocratically, oppressing Catholics and other non-evangelicals, packs the courts with fundamentalist Christians, starts to rig the officer corps of the Army with radical Christians loayal to the Robertson Ministry, arrests Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and David LEtterman for disrespecting the state, appoints Reverand Fred Phelps as his Attorney General.

      The economy collapses due to his incompetence.

      A 100 million Americans sign a petition demanding the removal of Robertson. Similar numbers are in the streets demanding a new government. Robertson makes no concessions.

      Ya, sure, I unequivocally support the military or civilian militias removing the Christian theocracy before it consolidates power any further.

    • It seems that most of us agree that a parliamentary system offers some flexibility for a fledgling attempt at democracy.

      But the Presidential system should have worked too. Morsi could have been a poor leader and still serve out his term. Morsi did not even meet this very low bar, he was not simply incompetent, he was menacing. I wonder if appointing a radical Islamacist as a governor was the last straw.

  • Egypt: One Soldier Dead, 3 Wounded, as Muslim Brotherhood Clashes with Army, Secularists in Provinces
    • It makes sense. Nothing could be more threatening to a middle east ruler than the idea that Islam and Democracy are compatible. Much easier to dismiss democracy as a western way.

    • I find it odd that you think the Muslim Brotherhood has no choice going forward but to engage in civil war. Further, you suggest the MB has zero responsibility for events that led to the coup, and zero accountability for any future actions.

  • Fourth of July Comes a Day Early to Cairo after Fundamentalist President is Removed (video)
    • Add to your list the packing of mid-level officers in the army with Islamicists.

      The MB blew it! That said, I'm not opposed to the idea of political Islam. I'll grant them a mulligan, just like the liberals have now been granted a do-over. Maybe some day Egypt will elect a wiser MB politician. All sides have behaved badly and need to learn from their mistakes. Egypt is really no different than most fledgling democracies.

    • If Obama was arresting Jon Stewart for insulting him, and if the Republicans could bring 150 million people onto the streets in protest, yes, I would support a revolution to restore democracy.

    • RJLYNN, you are right that the Egyptian military has no track record of holding town hall meetings. But they did cede control to Morsi in the last incarnation.

      Might the Turkish coup of 1997 be considered a democratic coup?
      link to

      This guy argues that Egypt 2011 was a democratic coup:
      link to

    • The upshot there is that the MB will become radicalized and violent. Certainly this will be true to some extent, but that path is a dead end. The Egyptian military is well practiced in suppressing Islamic extremists.

      Some portion (I expect the overwhelming majority) of the MB will continue to be political players. Their brand, shall we say, has been damaged, so they will be diminished, but still important.

    • I agree with you. Egypt is too divided to have a strong presidency. A parliamentary system would offer more political escape valves.

      Perhaps the next president will be more inclusive and cautious.

    • "democratic coup d'état"
      Respond to a popular uprising against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime and topple that regime for the limited purpose of holding the free and fair elections of civilian leaders.

      link to

  • Egypt: Fundamentalist Morsi Defies both Protesters & Military Ultimatum, says Obama Backs Him
    • Morsi was elected democratically, but the MB have not built democratic institutions. The ramming through of the constitution was the start of the disaster.

      The MB is not being sent to prison, they will have an opportunity to compete fairly in new elections. Hopefully the new government will be more respectful of the entire country.

  • 'The 19th Day of the Egyptian Revolution': What the Egyptian Press is Saying about Today's Mass Protest
    • Juan, thanks for taking time to organize such a thorough yet succinct media summary.

  • Obama Isolated at G8 on Arms for Syrian Rebels
    • Obama did not change course because of the red line, that is just cover for his position switch. The administration could have easily continued to treat the evidence as inconclusive.

      Obama's intentions were to cut a deal with Russia in the upcoming conference. And that remains their preferred end game - a diplomatic solution.

      The switch to arming the rebels came because Iran (partially through Hezbollah) has tipped the balance and made a diplomatic resolution impossible. And unless the administration decides to intervene more resolutely, I would say they are left adrift with no policy or influence at all. Some may say that is not so bad.

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • I do not understand how the non-intervention strategy can produce a decent outcome in either the short or long term. Juan's, I mean Professor Juan's counsel to train in the ways of Gandhi does not sound so promising. More immediately, I see a horrendous amount of death and permanent dislocation on the road to Assad consolidating power.

      I prefer a diplomatic resolution. What conditions would lead there?

    • It seems to me that the outcome of doing nothing is that Iran will consolidate control over Lebanon & Syria. I don't know the implications for Iraq and that infamous "Shia crescent."

      How does an Assad victory impact the prospects for regional stability or (optimistically) democracy over next 20 years? I'm very much interested in Juan's thoughts, perhaps this large topic can be addressed in a future blog.

      I consider Iran to be very bad actor. But my main rationale for intervention is humanitarian, to create a balance of power conducive to a negotiated settlement. There really weren't any good guys in Bosnia, what mattered was achieving a military balance to facilitate diplomacy.

    • and the Balkans are an object lesson on when it makes great sense to intervene.

    • The oil? Are we after their olive oil?

  • Sunni-Shiite Conflict Spikes as al-Qaeda Massacres 60 Shiites, Gulf States Sanction Hizbullah
    • bujinin, the outcome is not going to resolve with some respectful redistribution of power. Assad has overwhelming military force through Russia, Iran and Hizbullah. Assad has clear path to crush the rebellion and institute an ever-more brutal police state.

      Really, where is the mystery?

  • The Coming Israeli-Russian War?
    • If Israel considers an S-300 system a serious threat, and I have no reason to think they are bluffing, I expect they will destroy them.

      Hezbollah is joined at the hip with the Assad regime, of course it is possible that the weapons could be transferred.

      I don't think the fact that Russia has put some of their military people at risk in the middle of a hot war zone weighs heavily in Israeli calculations.

  • 200 Dead, Many Children, in Syrian aerial bombing of Halfaya
    • Swimmer's remarks were not accurate in any sense. And he punctuated his remarks by insulting anyone who might disagree.

      His follow-up, a lengthy, incoherent rant of conspiracy theories has now been matched by your contribution.

  • The Green-Khaki Alliance: Morsi Deploys the Military for Referendum
    • “ why is Morsi compelled to ram it through? He has to. … The Public vote early this year decreed that any constitutional assembly must complete its work within six months … Egypt is a land of laws”

      Please. Dr. Morsi has not been shy about issuing dubious, heavy-handed decrees. In the name of national reconciliation, he could easily issue another decree postponing the referendum by 3 months. His decision would be mostly accepted by Egyptians on all sides, and Morsi’s credentials as a conciliator and democrat would be lauded internationally.

      Reality check: Egypt is not yet a country of stable laws; all branches of government are in turmoil and uncertainty.

      “This wording about Muslim Brotherhood document is quite unfair to the majority of people who actually helped form this document. “
      Yes, I concede that I greatly exaggerate. I heard the opinion of Jane Harman, a U.S. former politician and foreign policy think-tanker who I generally respect. She has studied the document. She believes that the constitution is actually rather decent on balance.

      You don’t need to sell the document to me or Jane Harman. YOU NEED TO MOLLIFY MILLIONS OF YOUR UNPURSUADED COUTRYMEN. Obviously they see the seeds of intolerance in that document.

      “Morsi has still his hands outstretched for open dialogue, in fact many people opposing him have availed themsleves of this invitation since Saturday, and continue to do so”

      Good. Keep up the conversations for a few months, then have a meaningful referendum.

      “The constitution assembly spent many nights and days without sleep and they took advantage of many many specalists the aim was to help our poor, and the minorities, according to the new constitution there every single Egyptian has equal rights.”

      Excellent. Now spend some time persuading the public before a vote is taken. Be prepared to make some modifications.

      “You have no right to interfere with Egypt in any way…..”

      Please drop this line of attack. I hear echos of the old Soviet Union, and Kim Jong-IL, and Bashar Assad, and every other xenophobic dictatorship that defines any international criticism as “internal interference.”

      “ Because he loves his people and he is anything but a dictator, those words are the words of our distorted media… I don’t know what they say in English channels…”
      I consume a range of media, including respectfully considering your opinions. I am capable of spotting an authoritarian streak.

      “He has never tried to blackmail anyone. “
      The timing of his decrees after the Gaza negotiations was not coincidental. Perhaps “blackmail” is too strong, but he appears to be playing the old Mubarak game. We’ll see.

      “we will become a great nation with a decent life for everyone.”
      I hope so. You are so close, yet so far.

    • "Have any of you read the constitutional draft? It is a very good constitutional draft."

      If it is such a wonderful constitution, why is Morsi compelled to ram it through?

      You refer to the "five long months" that the representatives spent on writing the constitution. When it comes to developing a blueprint for a nation, there is nothing long about five months! And if the majority was not willing to compromise with the minority, time does not matter, you simply end up with a Muslim Brotherhood document.

      If it took 5 short months to write that constitution, why will Morsi not give the public 5 short months to discuss, consider, and potentially organize oppostion? What is Morsi afraid of.

      The problem with that constitution is not what it says. The problem is what it omits - explicit and strong guarantees of minority rights.

      The international community should not legitimize the anti-democratic process used to railroad that constitution through. This is not meddling or intervention, it is taking a principled position.

      Of course the U.S. and other nations will deal with the resulting Egyptian government, just like governments deal with other authoritarian states.

      I do hope the U.S. cuts all foreign aid. Morsi is trying to blackmail the U.S. just like Mubarak did for so many years. If Morsi wants to abrogate the treaty with Israel, I say good luck with that.

    • I'm puzzled by these reflexive comments about "meddling".

      The United States or any other country is entitled to have a foreign policy. I expect, or at least hope, that our government will criticize authoritarian, undemocratic actions, and praise postive developments in other countries.

      Further, there is nothing wrong with using foreign aid to encourage policies that we approve of.

      "Are you saying that United States intervention in Egyptian politics (and by extension, that of other countries)is perfectly OK, as long as it meets your selective criteria? How does that differ from someone who pushed for United States intervention to prop up Mubarak, because that met his selective criteria?"

      Propping up Mubarak was a mistake. By your definition of "meddling", withdrawing aid to Mubarak would have been interference in Egyptian poltics.

      Are you advocating isolationism? Or on other extreme, do you believe in granting foreign aid without accountability?

      Perhaps you have not thought this through, or maybe this is just a misunderstanding.

    • Juan,
      I agree with your logic here and in your previous blog on Egypt that the reformers are making a mistake in boycotting the referendum. The problem is that given that the vote occurs in less than a week, there is insufficient time for Morsi opponents to understand and form a consensus around any strategy. Given this reality, a boycott is least bad option.

      "They are still acting like revolutionaries rather than transitioning into democratic politics." Perhaps, but by rushing the process, Morsi is not allowing democratic politics to take shape.

      It is up to Obama and the international community to deny legitimacy to the referendum and Morsi's machiavellian consolidation of power. I am not optimistic. The world can accept one more Mubarak.

  • Egypt Polarized as 200,000 Tahrir demonstrators and Crowds in other Cities protest Morsi's "Temporary Dictatorship"
    • "There’s no way Egypt would tolerate a Caliphate though, so I think the concerns about Morsi intending to be a dictator are unfounded."

      Isn't this what people said about Iran back in the 1970's? I remember talk that the Iranian people were more sophisticated than the Arabs, that they just wanted to throw-off the oppressive Shah.

      You may be correct that the majority in Egypt don't want an intolerant, hardline state. But does the majority always prevail in revolutions?

      I don't mean to be completely pessimistic. My point is thata nothing is predictable.

  • Egyptian Left/Liberals Confront Pres. Morsi with Rallies, Demos in 8 Provinces
    • The parliamentary elections were conducted before the MB had any organized competition.

      I believe Juan's analysis of presidential split was about right:
      link to

      Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been heavy-handed at every stage of this saga, the recent elimination of the judiciary is just the last straw on the camel's back. The MB is foolishly writing a consitution that will be unacceptable to large segments of Egyptian society.

    • You are tragically mistaken, there is no such thing as temporary authoritarianism in a state with no democratic infrastructure or traditions.

      Your insinuation that the election produced a mandate for any sort of Islamic State is not supportable. Many people voted for the MB as the lesser of two evils. The MB overwhelmed fragmented, disorganized political opposition.

      I do appreciate your insight that Morsy may have more popular support for his actions than is being portrayed in the western press. Whether it is a majority is unknowable.

      The essential point you are missing is that democracy is not just a ruler getting a popular mandate, far more important is respect for democratic institutions. Morsy has just trashed the nascent democratic institutions around him.

    • I agree with you that the Muslim Brotherhood is completely different from European Democratic Party - who would even suggest such a thing?

      However, one could replace "the Christian Right in America" with "Muslim Brotherhood" in your post above, and that description would be correct.

      This political axe grinding is silly. The Muslim Brotherhood has a disturbing tendency, your concerns are well founded. Then again, one must recognize that a MB-like party has been relatively successful in Turkey, so nothing outcomes are not so obvious or predictable as you state.

    • It's essential that the democracy seeking Egyptians stay in the streets and keep-up the painful struggle for democracy. If they give up now, all is lost for at least a generation.

      It is also important for the U.S. government to make an unambiguous condemnation of Morsy. If Obama won't do it, I approve of Congress playing the bad cop and cutting off some aid.

      I suspect that Morsy is a good man who sincerely believes that he needs dictatorial powers to guide Egypt's transition to democracy. I also suspect that Bashar Assad came into an office a good man, sincerely dedicated to reforming Syria into a modern state.

      The old adage "Power currupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" proves true again and again. None of us, no matter how well intentioned we might be, is impervious to human nature.

  • 'Free Libya' Crowds in Benghazi rally against Militias, Drive al-Qaeda out of City
    • You have swallowed the FOX distortions hook, line and sinker. The administration initially said that the attack on Libyan consulate was likely done by extremist group, the only point of contention was whether the attack was organized quickly or planned in advance. Their best initial information indicated it was not highly planned. This is hardly a "stark disagreement" with the Libyan President's best guess.

      If you read Susan Rice's remarks on the Sunday news shows, she emphasizes all the facts were not in, and she did not close on the door on any possibility.

      John McCain is out misrepresenting that the administration "categorically rejected a terrorist attack." This is a lie. We're seeing a manufactured controversy by desperate Republicans.

  • Top Ten Likely Consequences of Muslim anti-US Embassy Riots
    • My prayer for a good panel discussion on Mideast developments has already been answered. It occurs on conservative turf (AEI) with Danielle Pletka as moderator. There are only two guests, Brian Katulis & Hisham Melhem, but that's enough as they have different perspectives. Excellent, highly recommended.

      link to

    • Excellent points, Juan.

      The quality of information/analysis on TV is dismal. Even better attempts by Charlie Rose, Fareed Zakaria, C-SPAN are U.S. centric, barely get deeper than predictable arguments from same-old standard bearer. Richard Hasse is a nice, smart man, but I can finish his sentences.

      Why are you not on TV anymore? Some untoward scandal?

      The curious public needs more guidance, and there is nothing more educational than real time back-and-forth between experts. I would kill to see a panel of yourself, Rami Khouri, Joshua Landis, Fouad Ajami and a few others thrash through middle east dynamics for an hour or twelve.

    • Keep in mind that the Ambassador was killed in a consulate not at the more fortified embassy.

  • Obama Plays Hardball and Egypt's Morsi Folds
    • The criticism from right-wing, middle east pundits is dizzying. KT McFarland, Walid Phares and all those retired Colonels on Fox News are the worst.

      Their main line of attack is that Obama has partnered with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the exclusion of secular, more democratic forces. Can somebody out there explain this accusation? What was the United States supposed to do to help secular parties?

      Well, now the FOX "experts" are jumping up and down because Obama has distanced himself from the MB government by suggesting they are not a full ally. Seems like some major cognitive dissonance at play here.

  • The West Will Have to Compromise on Syria (Schmidt)
    • Your view of history is as unfactual as your characterization of the state of Libya today. The West & rebels did not destroy the infrastructure, oil revenues are already soaring. The central government is weak, but the place is relatively peaceful and the future is promising.

    • Good catch. I'm sorry to be so hard on the guest columnist, but the piece is a long series of dubious facts and suppositions.

    • The author concludes with a call for a "pragmatic approach". Great - what specifically are those steps? The transition to democracy that Schmidt and most everyone else craves will require the Assad clan to relenquish power. The idea of elections and a transition was already pursued aggresively, notably by Russia a year ago, and it went nowhere. Nothing in the dynamics has changed.

      I really get tired of people posturing as new-thinking, above-the-fray peace makers, ignoring the fact that a negotiated solution was desperately and furiously pursued by Kofi Anan for 16 months. If Assad was amenable to a peaceful resolution, he would have responded very differently to peaceful protests.

      Finally, Schmidt's diatribe about Israel shows that he is every inch an idealogue, hardly a pragmatist. I don't necessarily take issue with Schmidt's views, but the notion that a resolution to Syria is tied to the Palestinean problem, or support for Israel in its standoff with Iran, is irrelevant axe grinding.

      If Schmidt has some fresh ideas for shifting entrenched positions on Syria, by all means please share them.

  • A Rebuke to the American-Israeli Economic War on Iran (Cole in Truthdig)
    • This piece criticizes sanctions while ducking the core issue: should Iran be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons?

      Of course it is true that nuclear-armed countries preventing other nations from acquiring such weapons are hypicritical. So what? We're dealing with a much weightier problem here than unfairness and double standards.

      EVERYBODY is in favor of Iran having nuclear power for peaceful purposes. (Well, not quite everybody, I guess Mitt Romney is now campaigning against any enrichment whatsoever.) But governments across the world, including the U.S., are fine with a verified nuclear power program in Iran. So the no-electricty argument is a straw man.

      For myself, I am OK with containment. I don't buy the theory that Iran going nuclear will lead to proliferation; the Saudis and others would be fine living under U.S. nuclear umbrella. Frankly, I look forward to the day that Iran announces a bomb so we can achieve a cold peace.

      I might think differently if I lived in Israel. And if I were a politician or pundit with a reputation to protect, I might keep this verbotten opinion to myself.

  • A Tale of Two Insurrections: Syria, Iraq, and American Security
    • This essay brings some clarity to the confusion. The class-based nature of the conflict has been under-emphasized.

      I will pick a bone: "The US and Iraqi-Shiite approach has been vindictive toward former regime elements (whether Sunni or Shiite)." Not true. There were misteps by Viceroy L. Paul Bremmer early on, especially dissolving the army. But for the most part, the United States pushed constantly and desperately for reconciliation. The U.S. funded the Sunni Awakening despite Shitte reservations. The U.S hoped Ayad Allawi might bring a less sectarian government to power, no such luck.

  • What Cable News didn't Tell You: The Non-Aligned Movement Meeting Strengthened Iran's Hand vs. US, Israel (Azad)
    • Maybe some Republican yahoos in congress are concerned. But you really have not been paying attention, American attitudes towards the middle east have shifted and distanced. The Obama adminstration accepts that Egypt will have a more independent foreign policy.

      Knowledgable people know that Egypt is hardly going to fall deeply under Iranian influence. Even Iraq right next store is not going to dance to Iran's persian tune.

    • Well said. I wonder why Azad is downplaying the huge struggle over Iranian influence in the Arab World. Surely he knows better.

    • "Although the western media mainly focused on the parts of Morsi’s statement criticizing the Syrian regime and highlighted the differences between Egypt and Iran on this issue, reading the whole text of Morsi’s speech indicates that on most other issues, the two countries had more or less similar positions. One should not, therefore, read too much into their differences over Syria."

      This is a bizarre spin. The Sunni-Shitte fault quaking through Syria is the issue of the day. I can not think of a more dramatic and salient statement than the president of Egypt lambasting the Assad regime.

  • Syria and the New Great Divide in the Greater Middle East
    • link to

      Interesting analysis from AP claiming waning Iranian influence in Arab world.

      The theory is that Morsi is willing to visit Iran because of growing confidence of Sunni world vis-a-vis Shitte.

  • In Switch, Egypt's Civilian President Makes Coup against Generals
    • There is zero evidence that the Obama administration views the Egyptian military as its client. Hilary Clinton's public statements the past year have been that the military must step aside and allow democracy to proceed.

      Obama has taken considerable heat from domestic conservative pundits as a weak democrat, soft on the Muslim Brotherhood. Some international critics have the U.S.A. and G.B. penciled-in as old-school imperialist, hanging-on to their dictator puppets.

      Old habits die hard.

    • You write a very interesting commentary here, although I may misinterpret your sarcasm.
      Is "It is really puzzling" sarcastic? If so, you are not as wise as you are clever. The Muslim Brotherhood garnered about 30% popular support in recent elections. They ascended to presidency by trumping a divided and disorganized opposition. This hardly represents a domino falling, in the sense of a sweeping ideological wave. There is huge uncertainty about the days ahead, anybody who is not puzzled is fooling themself.

      Your emphasis on the posture of the USA and GB strikes me as rather old fashioned. The West has taken a hands-off approach to Egypt. I think most of the world wishes Egypt nothing more than democracy and peace. Outside countries have a self-interest in seeing stability - is that to be condemned?

      I fear for Egypt. I am not afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood per se - they would be fine in the context of democratic institutions. But we shouldn't sweep the example of Algeria under the carpet. If Morsi and his party respect the spirit of democracy - fine. I don't think it is correct to say that Hamas in Gaza are democrats. So lets not pretend that the Brotherhood's ascension to power is yet cause for celebration for outsiders who wish Egypt well.

    • What is happening in Egypt is confusing and nerve racking.

      The U.S. press has largely dropped coverage of Syria and Egypt. Both political parties (Dems & Repubs) are internally divided about appropriate U.S. positions.

  • Syria: The Battle for Aleppo Begins as Rebels Retreat
    • I'm sensing crocodile tears. Would you be pleased if the rebels had succeeded in holding more territory across the city?

      The rebels are lightly armed, untrained, led by fragmented leadership. They will improve tactics and logistics in coming months and years. We are at chapter 1 of a long and miserable book.

    • I agree, I don't see any possibility of Assad controlling the country again, or restablishing a peace time economy. Yet he has a well-armed and motivated core. It's going to be a long slog that will extend beyond Assad's departure.

      I was watched a Charlie Rose interview with the King of Jordan today, he seemed to think that the formation of some sort of Alawite enclave was a real possibility, and an unhappy outcome. King Abdullah also opined that Assad's greatest vulnerability was financial reserves. He estimated that Assad could fund the war machine for rest of this year, and would subsequently be dependent on Iran.
      link to

      King Abdullah is a very puzzling figure. He seems honest and intelligent. Perhaps I am not savy enough to discern any artifices. It is a little uncomfortable listening to a guy philosophize about the meaning of the Arab Spring, when he himself could be next in the crosshairs! Well, His Highness has me impressed.

    • I don't understand why the rebels concentrate forces in particular neighborhoods, making themselves vulnerable to artillary and air strikes. Having Sunni neighborhoods get destroyed is not an efficient way to win-over Assad's supporters in wealthier areas.

      I suppose they are trying to goad the army into urban warfare, where they have a chance to inflict casualties. The Army is not biting.

      I get the point of guerrilla wars is to draw the government into brutal responses that turn public opinion against them. But you can do that with small, dispersed units that keep moving.

  • Revolutionaries in Syria Claim 60% of Aleppo as UN Condemns al-Assad
    • It seems the most certain prediction that can be made is that Syria is in for an extended period of chaos and violence, years not months. The level of cruelty on all sides is overwhelming.

      The second most sure bet is that Assad and his Alwite militia have no chance to reestablish control over the country.

      Any prediction beyond this is blind speculation. Who knows whether the Christian, Kurd, Druse communities can conciliate with the Sunni majority, but they are not going to charge the hill through a hail of bullets to save Assad's bacon.

  • Obama signed finding to help Syria Uprising
    • Aaron David Miller is against the U.S. arming the Syrians.
      link to

      I notice he was similarly reticent on Libya:
      link to

      The "pottery barn" argument is too facile, one could provide aid on limited basis. I don't understand the logic of cheering for the downfall of Assad while strongly condemning military aid.

  • Syrian Baath Escalates, Uses Jets to Bomb Aleppo
    • I see no parallel whatsoever with Egypt. Syria is in midst of a civil war. The mostly Alawite core of the military and shabiha are arrayed on one side. The military in Egypt retains relatively broad support.

      Your "fat chance" comment is true to the extent that we are likely in for a very bloody and prolonged civil war. But I don't see the military holding together indefinitely, they are under a lot of pressure.

  • Syrian Rebellion Enters new Stage with Aleppo, Border operations
    • Nobody said Syria would fracture into many ethnic states. The question is whether the Alawites could defend and enclave and form one small state. The Alawites are uniquely position to do so, especially with Russia as a patron.

      The Alawites ARE the Syrian State, so yes, a rump Alawite state would have chemical weapons.

      A little odd that you would accuse me of not reading Landis's blog. He presents a convincing argument, as I noted. Lots of experts on the Middle East present convincing arguments that blow up. I am entitled to think for myself.

    • Prof Joshua Landis is a Syria specialist who gave an excellent background talk on Syria last week. You might catch on C-SPAN TV or watch online:
      link to

      Landis has been criticized for a strongly anti-interventionist position on Syria, with some claiming his marriage to an Alliwite colors his perspective. Landis claims his earlier personal experience in the Middle East already set his view, claiming that Lebannon, Syria and Iraq are inherently too sectarian to be receptive to well-meaning democratization projects.

      His blog yesterday had a very helpful map of the ethnic distribution in and around Syria:
      link to

      Landis argues there that an independent Allawite state is an unlikely outcome. Well, he's the expert. But I can't help noticing that the Russian naval basis would fall within a rump Allawite State. Why wouldn't Russia support an Allawite State to keep their toe-hold in the Middle East? The Allawites are well-armed, including chemical weapons, why couldn't they defend an enclave, especially with Russia's enthusiastic backing? Such an outcome might explain Russia's puzzlingly willingness to alienate the future powers of Syria proper.

  • Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing
    • Dear Juan,
      Interesting commentary on whether a resolution might involve the formation of an Alawite state:
      link to

      I have just started to educate myself on the mysterious Alawis, and was surprised to learn that there was briefly an Alawite state in 1920's:
      link to

      If not a seperate state, perhaps the international community might sanction/protect a safe area for Alawites and Christians?

      Your blog has enriched my life greatly the past 10 years. I appreciate your intellectual honesty as a commentator, which to me means a willingness to allow pragmatism trump ideology when required.

  • Morsi Reaffirms Israel Peace Treaty to Clinton
    • Conspiracy theories are expected, but the particular theory that the U.S. wanted the Muslim Brotherhood in power is indeed ironic because it is the opposite of reality. Of the 5 or so major presidential candidates, I expect Morsi would be the U.S. State Department's last preference.

  • Morsi and Brotherhood isolated vs. Military, Courts, Secularists
    • I am relieved that the Brotherhood's nominal allies have turned against them, if that indeed is the case. My impression is that the moderates have been blinded by their understandable hatred of the old regime, and have been used by the Brotherhood.

  • Voters in Libya: Indescribable Joy, "Libya is Free"
    • The dissappointing elections in Egypt have soured the western press on democracy in Arab world, so lack of interest in Libyan elections is understandable.

      20 representatives from each of three regions to write constitution sounds reasonable to me. Maybe the federalists in the east think federalism means they keep all the oil moey.

  • Mursi and the Brotherhood in a Pluralist Egypt
  • Revolutionaries Vow return to Tahrir Square in face of Military Power Grab
  • Egypt: An Election within a Coup within a Coup
    • What precisely has the military taken away from the revolution?
      The opportunity to live under a president from the conservative wing of Muslim Brotherhood, a parliament dominated by Islamicists, and a constitution written by the Muslim Bortherhood.

      Democracy is more than elections. When a plurality of the electorate does not have a candidate they can abide in a presidential runoff, there is no democratic infrastructure. The liberals did not have time to form a strong and unified party. They are lucky that they get a do-over.

      I wouldn't mind an Islamist government in context of a functional democracy. The MB isn't going anywhere, they remain a force. I think we all want to see Egypt have a government that respects minority rights, and where all segments have some voice. That will take some time.

  • Qaddafi's Complex Falls to Revolutionaries
    • Ras Lanuf: And the oil infrastructure in Brega wasn't sabotaged either.

      This is *very* encouraging. I think it has nothing to do with Gadaffy, at least not the elder. The officers in that corps apparently have accepted reality.

    • I think the Qadaffys have proven to be damn resilient and clever. I expect them to regroup in Sirte, and kill a lot of people before this is all over. I expect they have plenty of money and allies.

  • New Libya, Welcomed in Mideast, Rejects NATO Bases
    • your characterization of Haas as an imperialist is absurd. I haven't agreed with him on Libya, but he is a very moderate sort, and his desire for boots-on-the-ground is a possibly misguided desire to maintain order.

      your oil-grab theories are idiotic. Do you think we intend to steal their oil? If all we cared about was the flow of oil, then backing Gadaffy would have been the preferred route.

    • Richard Haas has been abjectly wrong about Libya from day one. His solution to the uprising was to partition the country.

  • Top Ten Myths about the Libya War
    • There are a dozen reasons why we intervened in Libya rather than other situations. The fact that the U.S. does not intervene in other locations in no way proves bad intentions in Libya. You have to think critically, look at situations in detail rather than make simple, broad ideological leaps.

      a skeptic keeps an open mind, does not just sing from an alternative hymnal.

    • I don't think the war is nearly over. Ghadaffy and his cult following are going to punish the unbelievers with as much bloodshed as possible before they go to their graves.

      I see the Ghadaffy phenomena as something close to pure evil. Same as the cult of Saddam Hussein, or Idi Amin, or any of a hundred other despots.

    • The primary reason the rebels were able to advance so dramatically in the last three weeks is that NATO ran out of time, and they changed policy. NATO started coordinating closely with the rebels, and dilligently acted as their air force. The addition of more drones didn't hurt either.

      Juan, this is the point where I take issue with you. NATO policy was tentative and flawed through most of this campaign, although I agree it worked in the main. The end could have come sooner.

      I'd like to offer a special award for idiocy in punditry to KT McFarland. On Friday she publishes an article describing Obama's policy in Libya as an abject failure that hamstrings us in Syria:
      link to
      On Sunday she is on TV celebrating the downfall of Libya, she saw it coming. She adds the strange, expert insight that U.S. special forces will now be operating on the ground in Libya, hunting remaining "guerrillas", who she conflates as Gaddaffy supporters and Islamists.

      I have observed KT McFarland's foreign policy expertise for a couple years now. Ideology aside, that woman is not operating with a full deck.

  • Controversies over Younis assassination in Libya
  • Free Libya Offensive in Brega Begins
    • Certain territory means a lot. If the Free Libya forces can take Brega, Ras Lanuf and then Gharyan in the west, the psychological aspect of the war will be over.

      If Qadaffy is cutoff from oil resources in the South and East, its all over but the shoutin. It will be clear to all tribes and individuals that any negotiated solution will leave the Qadaffy clan defanged.

      It is going to be a very bloody fight to accomplish the above. VEry sad to watch, but that is war for ya. I expect Gharyan will be the fiercest challenge of all.

      It won't be necessary to invade Tripoli region.

  • Today's Top 5 Crises in the 2011 Arab Revolutions
    • Good call on the need for Obama to add a little stiffening to the NATO effort.

      The decision to pursue this effort on such a half-hearted basis has backfired. As we see clearly now, time was never on NATO's side. But I still don't see Qadaffy winning this thing. Somehow, someway, his regime will be ousted.

      If Free Libya advocates are not sufficiently depressed by the crumbling of NATO alliance, enjoy this account of the behavior of Nafusa rebels:
      link to

  • Free Libya Forces Advance in Western Mountains
    • Gharyan is an entirely different challenge than the rest of the Nafusa Mountain advance.

      The war has dragged-on much longer and bloodier than was necessary. I expect it will eventually end well, but it has been painful to watch.

    • I agree that NATO should be arming the rebels, including with heavy weapons. But that clearly is not going to happen.

      Its obvious that NATO does not want the rebels to achieve a complete military victory. My main problem with this approach is that so many Free Libyan soldiers and civilians have died as a result.

      (BTW, I never bought the argument that Al-Qaida craved tanks and heavy artilary. )

    • Free Libya forces have made precious little progress where it really matters. On the frontline of Misrata, they have been taking shocking levels of casualties for a small militia, Gadaffy clobbers them with rockets with impunity. NATO has evidently made a policy decision to not defend the rebels. The whole war is replete with examples of this attitude.

      There are several very frank interviews with General Bouchard, the canadian general who has final authorization for air strikes. In one, he explicitly said that he puts a low priority on reacting to requests from the field. The bureaucratic, timid, slow, systematic, aloof nature of the process is obvious.

      Another clue to the nature of the war is gleaned from following the daily strike reports from NATO. They are dispersed evenly throughout the whole country, often in obscure, remote towns that send you to google maps. Maybe this has changed recently, but NATO has not concentrated firepower where it is critically needed. They pick-off safe and clear targets through the targeting bureaucracy.

      The BBC article repeatedly and explicitly states that the battle lines are in stalemate. It does not say that the airstrikes are less than the rebels want, it objectively observes the passivity of NATO. You are correct that the article does not use the phrase "policy of stalement", it is up to you to connect the dots.

      I don't know why people are sticking their heads in the sand. NATO has said all along that there is no military solution, they clearly are angling for a political settlement. Many analysts on the left have called for the fighting to stop short of final military victory. I generally agree with this sentiment, but one has to constantly questions assumptions as wars play out.

    • The rebels still have to fight 35 miles through heavily defended territory to reach Gharyan. The Free Libyans have superior morale, they are fighting on favorable terrain, but it is highly quesionable that they will be able to penetrate Gadaffy's heavy artilary and defenses. They don't call it a "garrison town" for nothing. The rebels are not in "striking distance", the news reports are exaggerated. But we can hope for the best.

      Today's article from the BBC spells out what is patently true, NATO is maintaining a stalemate as a matter of policy:
      link to

      Juan, when this conflict started, you advocated that NATO and Free Libyan forces not invade Tripoli, but rather achieve a political settlement to preempt a final, very bloody, all-out battle. (I may have missed some of your nuance.) Well, this appears to be EXACTLY what NATO is trying to achieve. I don't know why you resist recognizing the obvious, the key frontline points have stalemated, with the rebels outgunned. NATO has only allowed light arms to trickle to the rebels, and they aren't assisting advances with air support.

  • Rebels offer Qaddafi Libyan Retirement
    • I don't think the ICC indictment matters so much, the AU has already said they won't honor it. I expect Europe is prepared to ignore it as well if it leads to a solution.

      I could be wrong on this, just reading tea leaves and reports, but Qadaffy's personal fate is also not a sticking point. He's an old man. The critical issue is the role that Saif will play in a new government. Its about the clan, not the man.

    • Here is an argument for a negotiated solution, better reasoned than most:
      link to

      I have been adamently opposed to any negotiation that gave a Gadaffy lad a role in a transition. But the NATO effort is so feckless that I am changing my mind.

      Reports from the front are unchanged, the rebels are hopelessly outgunned. No relief in site.

      Forget about the rebels in the Nafusa Mountains (two thousand uncoordinated fighters at most) advancing across the plains to Tripoli, that is a joke. They have done an admirable job in mountain terrain, but they are not an army.

      Gadaffy is NOT running out of fuel, he still has an operational refinery that meets the needs of his military. (Oddly, NATO won't bomb it because it is considered civilian infrastructure.) Gadaffy is still selling significant oil, including to Italy! I read exports are at 1/3 of prewar levels, that sounds high, but he is still in business.

      The war is going very badly. Don't believe the loose talk of Gadaffy's certain demise, he retains plenty of cards. NATO looks to be out of political will next fall, THAT is the achilees heel of the patient attrition strategy.

      Perhaps a negotiated deal that leaves the regime with a say in the transition is the best step forward now. I'm mad that it has come to this. Obama's early decision to back-off militarily has backfired. It was an understandable and reasonable plan, but it fell shor. NATO is a paper tiger.

  • Senate Committee Backs Obama on Libya as Rebels capture major Arms Depot
    • Rebels must advance across open terrain against Zlintan, not so in Misrata.

      It is claimed that 2/3 of the population of Zlintan are loyalist. Maybe they are really more undecided than anything else, but this is a different environment.

      In Misrata, the rebels had their backs against the wall in do-or-die fight. The Gadaffy loyalists have this perverse advantage in Zlintan.

      I am most unimpressed with NATO's alleged attriting. At this rate, it will take just short of forever before Gaddafy's forces are weak in Zlintan or Brega relative to the barely-armed rebels.

      Juan, we are armchair generals. The armchair generals who at least were once real generals tend to confirm my point of view.

    • Yes, there has been some progress. But the advances you cite are the (relatively) low-hanging fruit.

      The rebels can't advance across open terrain against an entrenched opponent with heavy weapons, NATO is not providing intense close air support. The Misrata clearing was unique - urban warfare. The mountain victories are another home field win against a dispersed opponent.

      The rebels in east are not close to being able to challenge the entrenched loyalists in Brega. They are actually out-numbered against dug-in defenses.

      The Misrata rebels are unable to move against the heavy artilary of Zlitan.

      Gaddafy has fortified the critical mountain transit around Garyan. You don't see the mountain rebels being able to move further east even on their turf.

      Zawiya is a different sort of matter, but Gadaffy seems to have crushed the opposition in this critical western node.

      Gaddafy has successfully drawn a line in the sand at all the critical points. He has successfully created a stalemate, at least for now, and NATO needs to give the rebels weapons or air support to break it or we'll be here a year from now.

      I will be thrilled to learn in coming weeks that you are right, Juan, but I don't see it now from where I'm sitting.

    • The war in Libya is stuck in a bloody stalemate that could last years.

      link to

      The above analysis comes from the conservative side of the debate. They are looking correct on this one.

      (One thing I learned from the long Iraq debacle is that everyone and anyone can be wrong. Both ideological sides took turns being colossally wrong. I think Juan has been proven correct through most of that arc, but he certainly didn't anticipate the success of the surge. Humility is the lesson.)

  • Gates & NATO: Misery Loves Company
    • There is a lot of wisdom in this opinion piece. I would temper it a bit, after all China is engaging in a major military build up. The world would not be a safer place if the U.S. really went to European levels of spending.

      But I think Juan is right that we need a major rethink, not just a squeezing down of the budget. I certainly would like to see the U.S. withdraw from NATO, which would force the Europeans to build their own alliance. Europe and America should continue to cooperate as equal partners. The U.S. needs to drastically downsize its army personnel.

  • Arab Spring Turns Deadly Again
    • NATO's actions and inactions the past week have truly been baffling.

      In general, I think NATO is overwhelmed. It's pretty easy to see, the aircraft disappear for a full day or even two after major bombing runs. They simply don't have the pilots and targeting experts to keep pace with events.

      Bombing buildings in Tripoli is easy. Dealing with a dynamic battlefield stresses resources.

      The other issue is that NATO is clearly risk averse. How can you fight a war when the downing of a single helicopter is treated as a defeat? They only use helicopters at night, and then only sporadically. The helicopters are propoganda only, and Gadaffy has called NATO's bluff.

      Well, hopefully NATO will be shamed into dealing with the real action. So far, it appears NATO only cares about preventing deaths where they can be directly blamed.

  • Libyan Opposition: 'Extremely Happy' at Bin Laden's Death, Combatting al-Qaeda
    • There are two big news stories from Libya this week. Turkey has finally turned against Qadaffi Perhaps their new diplomatic proposal will be something practical. Their unequivocal diplomatic support is welcome in any event. link to

      The other development is that Europe has had their fill of the feckless air campaign. It's just too costly and ineffective to try and win a war from on high. Libya is bigger than Texas. I guess the coallition has about 20% of the resources they need to protect civilians and counter Qadaffi's mischief. The plan to patiently erode Qadaffy's power and hope for defections might have been a sensible idea, but it is falling short in reality. Here's an AP story about impatience in Italy and France:
      link to

      Hard to say what the next step will be. Will Obama follow John McCain's direction and commit sufficent air power to turn the tide? Or will the coalition really build-up a credible rebel military as the Europeans are suggesting? No great options.

  • NATO Strike on Command Center kills Qaddafi Son
    • The white house residential wing would not be a legitimate target unless their was a military bunker hidden beneath it.

    • CNN reports that the attitude in Benghazi is "show us the body." The fallen son was a relatively sympathetic figure, dragged reluctantly back from the easy life in Germany. The death of one of the militia-commanding chip-off-the-old-blocks would not inspire much outrage.

      Why NATO cannot push heavy weaponry out of firing rage of the Misrata port is baffling. I suppose there is activity across the country that they have to monitor, and they just can't concentrate enough resources. Obama/Gates need to adjust their strategy.

  • Misrata Reprieved
    • I am somewhat heartened by Juan's positive, big-picture view of what has been accomplished in Misrata. However, reports on CNN from Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London paints a devestating picture of what has happened in the last three days. On Sunday alone one hospital reported 16 dead and 71 seriously wounded. Colvin says that Monday was even worse.

      How can NATO ignore heavy artillary shelling a population center for several days? The argument that NATO wishes to avoid civilian casualties doesn't flush, they are trading the possibility of casualties for a certainty of carnage.

      NATO is not as concerned about civilian casualties as it is about being avoiding direct blame for casualities. The humanitarian rationale for this war is being eroded, they are getting away with it because of the reduced media coverage.

  • Fighting Rages in Misrata despite Withdrawal Pledge
    • ps. I agree with Juan's earlier commentary that a somewhat delayed crumbling of the central power has important advantages. The way things are playing out, the Transitional Council has the opportunity to build alliance and trust with factions in the West, creating the basis for a credible caretaker government. The rebel military also obviously needs organizational work before it can coordinate effectively with NATO.

      So perhaps a somewhat deliberate pace is good. But on the other hand, it would be very bloody and risky (to the political cohesion and success of the effort) if the war drags on past .... 6 months or so.

    • I'm encouraged by the introduction of drones, but only two? An important advantage of drones is psychologyical, so why does the pentagon announce the limitations? (Well, the answer is obvious, they want to continue the narrative of America as helper-in-chief.) I'd prefer that Gadaffy's tank drivers and sons started imagining a drone behind every cumulus cloud.

      Good to hear that the Berbers in the west are being resupplied so readily. Evidently the opposition has friends in high places in Tunisia.

      Very sobering story about The Colonel's deep pockets:
      link to
      I do not understand the judgement that Turkey is making, seems very short sighted. Perhaps their vision will improve as the balance tips, ie. if Misrata and the Western access to Tunisia hold.
      This war could drag on a long time.

  • Free Libyan fighters exult in small Victories, as US begins Drone Strikes
    • The rebels advanced easily through the desert to Sirte when NATO did heavy air support.

      The rebel success of late in Misrata is due to a surge in NATO bombing. Less than a week ago, people were suggesting the rebels in Misrata might be near the end.

      I admire what the Misrata rebels. I can hardly imagine such courage and resourcefulness. Still, it's NATO that will be decisive for the near term. Of course I am glad it is Libyans fighting on the ground, they will own this victory in the end.

  • Misrata's People under Siege
    • Juan, thanks much for shining a bright light on the situation in Misrata. There has been little detail in the news.

      I understand the advanatage of a steady, patient, broad approach to eliminating the Qadaffy regime. But of course we also have to respond decisively to a crisis like Misrata.

      I don't understand why the U.S. can not employ some of its specialized weaponry to drive the heavy weaponry out of the city. Drones could provide close range targeting.

      If Misrata can be released from Qadaffy's grip, it would be a pivotal event psychologically.

  • Impatient Rebels Critique NATO Aid
    • NATO is certainly not doing everything possible to fight the dug-in loyalist troops in Misrata. The U.S. could be flying small drones to precisely identify where the tanks and artillery are ensconced. Helicopters and A10's could be brought to the fight.

      The real holdup is that NATO, and especially the U.S., are unwilling to risk a single casualty of their own to fulfill the mission of protecting civilians. That is the sad truth. Or more charitably, the political reality.

      Qadaffy has a puny military force that Belgium could probably dismantle in two weeks of dedicated warfare.

  • Defections, US Withdrawal Point to Political Solution in Libya
    • "What bad thing would happen if NATO and the Arab League just proceed deliberately and with patience?"

      People in Misrata and a half dozen other Western cities are under intense pressure, they are dying. Time is of the essence.

      It seems that NATO ought to be able, as a minimum, conduct a sea evacuation of people who want to leave Misrata. They also ought not tolerate Gadaffi's use of heavy weapons there. They can stop the tanks and artillary if they are willing to risk some lost planes. Isn't their mission to protect citizens?

      Juan, I am generally in agreement with your strategy, but there is a need for some targeted urgent action as well.

  • How the No Fly Zone Can Succeed
    • Juan,
      Your strategy sounds fine as a plan A. The problem is coming up with a plan B if/when it doesn't work.

      I don't think diplomacy has any chance as long as Qadaffy's military people stick by him in large numbers. Their will to fight will have to be broken.

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